Cuauhtemoc Blanco hops off the pitch and into politics

Once famous for his on-field tricks, the Mexican is now mayor of a crime-plagued city.

Mexican forward Cuauhtemoc Blanco (C) jumps between German Jorg Heinrich (L) and Christian Woerns 29 June at the Stade de la Mosson in Montpellier, south of France, during the 1998 World Cup s match between Germany and Mexico. AFP / PATRICK HERTZOG
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Remember Cuauhtemoc Blanco and his famous “bunny hope” move?

If not, then watch the video here.

Now the Mexico football legend is moving into politics.

Blanco was sworn in as mayor in the crime-plagued city of Cuernavaca on Wednesday, with the playmaker tackling tough political opposition before kicking off his tenure.

Blanco took the oath of office at Cuernavaca City Hall, looking like a veteran football manager in a black suit and tie as he vowed to “change Cuernavaca.”

The 42-year-old former forward retired from football on a high note in April, winning the Mexican Cup with Puebla before diving into politics.

When he was elected with the small Social Democrat Party in June, he celebrated his victory over his opponents with a crude remark, saying: “I screwed them.”

The player who dribbled past defenders in his heyday in Mexico, Spain and the United States faces challenges in the political and criminal fronts.

While the city is a popular weekend getaway for many Mexico City residents, in recent years it has also been plagued by kidnappings and extortion rackets.

Blanco also has to deal with politicians who threatened to tackle his mayoral powers even before he took office.

“Many people thought that I was going to resign. Here I am, showing my face,” said Blanco, who played for Mexico in the World Cup in 1998, 2002 and 2010.

Last week, Blanco sent an open letter to President Enrique Pena Nieto urging him to “support him” in the face of “treacherous” city council members.

His political opponents countered with a football analogy, accusing Blanco of “simulating fouls” because he is the one trying to change the rules to create a “super cabinet” that could fill the gap during his prolonged absences from the city.

Blanco has also tussled with the government of the state of Morelos, whose capital is Cuernavaca.

The new mayor has announced that he will suspend the collaboration between municipal and state police under a “single command” in the city of 349,000 people.

Blanco’s team argues that crime has risen in the city despite the presence of state police and that the $2.9 million that Cuernavaca pays into the system could be better used to beef up its own security department.

The state public security chief, Alberto Capella Ibarra, warned that crime would go out of control within 100 days.

* With agencies